Dining

Basic Instinct

Bill Corbett's desserts are classics redefined

Bill Corbett is hardly a newcomer to the San Francisco restaurant scene.

He's worked as pastry chef in some of the city's finest kitchens, Michael Mina and Coi among them. In his new role as pastry chef at Absinthe--a position that includes making desserts for Arlequin Café and, eventually, Comstock Saloon and Boxing Room, too--Corbett is skillfully reimagining classic combinations.

Striking a balance between expertly executed technique and familiar flavor pairings, Corbett creates desserts that are neither gimmicky nor boring. For example, at Arlequin Café, his yogurt mousse is topped with orange marmalade and granola (click here to download the recipe), and lemon bars are capped with Thai-basil meringue (both $5). On the Absinthe dessert menu, a butternut squash cake is finished with brown-butter ice cream, and pavlova is flavored with Earl Grey (both $9).

That adage about learning to walk before you can run holds true. With a firm grasp on the fundamentals of baking and pastry, Corbett reinvents pastry stalwarts by doing them very, very well.

Crackling croissants ($3), beignets filled with orange-blossom pastry cream ($2.50), and apple-frangipane tarts ($9) may not be the most envelope-pushing desserts you've ever tried. Still, we're fairly certain they're among the most satisfying.

Absinthe, 398 Hayes St., 415-551-1590 or absinthe.com; Arlequin Café, 384 Hayes St., 415-626-1211 or arlequincafe.com

Absinthe 398 Hayes St. San Francisco CA 94102 415-551-1590 Arlequin Café 384 Hayes St. San Francisco CA 94102 415-626-1211

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